Save the Earth — leave it alone
To the Editor:
Over the years it has been a pleasure to walk the footpath from the end of Benjamin West Avenue to the train station. Walking past the magnificent tamarack trees in any season always provides a few moments of contentment. The pleasure and contentment are gone now with the ripping up of the south end of Cunningham Field for a Swarthmore College parking lot. This is exactly what we do not need, more pavement and unsightly metal objects replacing green space. Why do we continue to anger the earth?
In his 1979 book, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, scientist James Lovelock proposed that the Earth is a living, breathing, self-regulating organism that if we continue to trouble and offend its existence might just flick us off the way we might flick off an annoying fly.
In Greek mythology the beginning was called Chaos, a shapeless abyss, out of which emerged Gaia, the mother of the Earth. In his many books since 1979, Lovelock repeatedly tells us it is sheer hubris to think we know how to save the Earth. It is crucial to realize that the Earth has not evolved just for our benefit. The Earth as a living system knows how to look after itself. It does not need saving. It has always saved itself and is now starting to do just that by changing to a hot state that is not favorable for us. All we can hope to do is to save ourselves.
By building parking lots we continually aggravate the Earth which is beginning to conclude it does not need humans around and will be better off without us.
Accept more Syrian refugees?
To the Editor:
We aren’t nearly as bad as Cain. (If the quote is obscure for you, he’s a character in a book entitled Genesis.)
Many Americans just don’t want dangerous refugees here — which, Trump supporters would have us believe, includes all Muslims. Accordingly, they are not wanted unless they have been subjected to an extreme vetting process, more onerous than the very onerous one already in place.
The liberal media has made us aware of how many Trump supporters appreciate his giving voice to their bigotry towards various minority groups residing in our midst. In addition, however, there is a more subtle form of prejudice embodied in his position, i.e., against taking in any of those displaced by political oppression or even by climate calamities such as Louisiana has suffered.
We witness this from a safe distance, while various European nations struggle with swarms of refugees — or alternately lock their doors, or allow in only a trickle. There are now an estimated 4.5 million refugees going to squalid temporary refugee facilities in five Middle East countries; and their numbers are increasing at the rate of 65,000 a month. Additionally there are 6.6 million internally displaced refugees trapped within Syria.
The U.S. trickle totals 10,000, carefully placed in supportive communities across the country. I would welcome a dialogue about how, in addition, a few could be placed in our area. It seems to me that we could use information about how to manage language difficulties and employment and educational needs. Also, if the needs are too great for a single household, we might explore how two or more households can share the financial and other burdens. This could be organized by one of our churches. A viable plan might include having guests participate in such activities as elder care and child care. I would like to do more than merely write out checks to UNHCR to assuage my guilt for turning off the heartbreaking refugee news.
Testing or teaching?
To the Editor:
Regarding the interview published in the Sept. 2 issue of the Swarthmorean, I was quite surprised to see that WSSD’s new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Lisa Palmer, is the district’s former business manager. I would have expected that the superintendent would be someone with a strong background in education, rather than in the financial area.
Throughout the interview Dr. Palmer seemed particularly interested in conveying her intricate knowledge of the budget and other economic issues facing the district. I wondered if she had been selected because it seemed more important to hold the line on property taxes than to have a guiding philosophy about what educating the children of the schools means.
My surprise turned to concern, when I read in the last lines of her interview that, in terms of new strategies, students will be subjected to more testing (à la benchmarking), and that this data will be used “ to better deliver the content to the students.” The last thing that sophisticated educators want to be today are service providers who deliver the goods to the consumers and then measure the effects.
Today, educational scholars stress the importance of the co-creation of knowledge through child-initiated interests, peer group work, the personal involvement of students and teachers together, with the recognition of the uniqueness of each child. Let’s hope that such concerns are represented more fully among the teachers and other staff members.
To the Editor:
Unlike our condemned compatriots who lose their lives permanently to the guillotine or the executioner’s ax, the felled trees on Henderson Field seem to be sprouting!
Must we now poison them, lest they grow once more to shade us from the soccer summer sun?